I’m a bit late in posting this as I’m still waiting for my own copy to be scanned (my scanner is broken).
Bushcraft Magazine did me a double treat this summer issue as not only did they publish my article on the Slavonic forest spirit Leshy – Guardian of the forest, but they also gave me the cover. The painting of the British-Celtic forest god Herne is from a diptych I did on an old wooden cupboard in my dining room. I feel honoured that Steve Kirk, the editor of the magazine, would give it cover space. Cheers, Steve!
Order a copy from their website!
I plan to do more on the Leshy theme as it provides an answer to the Bigfoot conundrum. Stay tuned.
Outside it is bitingly cold and only a thin layer of snow has fallen. There were many animals out today, foraging in the fields as the forest is frozen. Roe and Red deer and one lone wolf some distance away. There were also plenty of tracks. This photo is, presumably, a badger (Meles meles) track but certain aspects of it give me doubts. There’s another, similar sized creature which I’ve been longing to see and which i know inhabits the area in which I found the track (2 were shot by an acquaintance a couple of months back, sadly), and that is the Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). As I can only find one example of their tracks online (a front paw), I’m unable to compare – the photo is of a rear paw. Ironically, the Raccoon Dog even inhabits badger setts.
The search continues….
At Bardejovske Kupele they have a Skanzen, a historic village, where traditional buildings from villages in the area where brought and function as an open air juseum. This region is famous for its Unesco protected wooden churches
Yesterday evening, while suffering from flu, I got the urge to try sleeping out in the forest during the Red deer stags’ rutting period. I hadn’t done it during this period before because I’ve had problems in the woods with hormonal enraged stags during this time in the past. But the noise of multiples of the giant beasts braying and roaring throughout the forest just seemed really appealing to experience first hand, alone, and in their space.
By the time I’d decided to go, there wasn’t much daylight left and my kit list was a hurried affair. I took a green garden tarp and some bungees to make a low slung swag shelter – 3 sided, with roof, back and floor, and front exposed to the fire. I brought an army bivi bag to sleep in, a kettle and some water for coffee.
The walk up the hillside and then through the forest to my intended campsite above a join in two ravines took longer than expected as I was ill. I arrived drenched in sweat and had just enough daylight to put up the shelter. Then it came to firelighting time. I’d forgotten to bring paper or cotton wool so resorted to birch bark outer. That went up no problem but the kindling around was drenched and as the forest got darker and darker I couldn’t venture off looking for drier stuff, or grass, etc. During this time the forest came alive, with large beasts crashing around and the occasional stag braying. I was so focused on peeling birch a short ways from my camp with help from my head torch, that a large growl nearby awoke me rudely. It took over an hour to get the fire lit using a cigarette lighter and I experienced dread throughout that time at the prospect of not having a fire through the night.
The importance of a fire can’t be underestimated. For cooking, for companionship, for safety. I collected enough dead fall to keep it going until dawn and my mood improved massively. I could begin to enjoy the various screams, grunts, barks and calls, and the sound of branches snapping under hoof out in the darkness.
I slept until 3 am and then the forest just seemed to erupt. As it didn’t start getting light until 5.30, that was a very long 2 hours and I made sure the flames of the fire were visible to any curious 4 legged passerby.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it reminded me of the old saying that the best part of having an adventure is coming safely home… Thankfully, Veles had his dominions on short rein last night.